The Lemur Conservation Foundation had the pleasure of hosting Kylie Sorenson at Marojejy National Park in Madagascar. Kylie is a Master’s student in the Primate Conservation program at Oxford Brookes University working closely with highly acclaimed professor Dr. Anna Nekaris, Director of the Little Fireface Project and Convenor of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group. As Dr. Nekaris’ student, Kylie was inspired to pursue a project in conservation education. With a degree in Biology and a background as a teacher in primary education, Kylie was immediately interested in conducting her Masters thesis on assessments of LCF’s student trips to Marojejy National Park.
Kylie had already completed coursework evaluating ecophilia and accuracy in primate children’s books, and she was excited to use her experience to evaluate our environmental education programs. Kylie trekked with several student groups on their three-day, two-night expedition in the primary rainforests of Madagascar. With the help of LCF staff, she was able to conduct pre and post testing to examine the impact of the environmental education program on the students. This critical data allowed LCF to determine what can be improved and what the students actually learned on their trips to the rainforest.
During the trips, students took notes as Desiré Rabary, one of the most well-known research guides, described the many unique aspects of the park. Marojejy is a World Heritage Site and contains 550 square kilometers of mountainous rainforest with many elevation-specific habitats. It is among the most biologically diverse parks in Madagascar. Students had the opportunity to track and observe critically endangered silky sifakas, and many of the park’s 11 species of lemurs. Most of the students had never seen these lemurs before.
In September, Kylie presented her findings at the European Federation of Primatology and the Primate Society of Great Britain 2019 International Conference (EFP-PSGB 2019). The presentation was co-authored by Oxford Brookes professor Dr. Nekaris and LCF staff members Joxe Jaofeno and Dr. Erik Patel.
LCF’s overnight trips provide the opportunity to connect with nature and directly observe and learn about the incredibly rare and significant plants and animals living in the students’ neighboring rainforest habitats. Fostering an understanding of and an appreciation for wildlife and natural habitats is the first step to inspiring pro-conservation attitudes and actions. Although the students and teachers have provided anecdotal evidence of the program’s success, Kylie Sorenson is the first to create and implement a formal evaluation of our forest-based conservation education program.
Prior to each trip, Kylie assessed children’s knowledge and attitudes regarding lemurs and forest biodiversity via drawing—by asking students to draw a picture of a forest and a lemur that lives there. Two weeks after each trip, Kylie again asked children to make these drawings. During each trip, the team assessed students’ opinions via evening focus groups during which children discussed the events of the day.
Kylie found that students drew more accurate lemurs after the rainforest trip, with students more frequently naming silky sifaka, the flagship species for the program, as a species in their drawing. Terms such as “silky sifaka” and “Marojejy is a National Park” were also more salient in post-trip evaluations.
Kylie presented her complete findings in her thesis in fulfillment of her Master’s degree in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes. We are excited that Kylie has decided to continue her work on this important topic for her Ph.D.
More information about research opportunities either on our reserve in Florida or in Madagascar is available here.
Visit Oxford Brookes for more information about the Master’s Program in Primate Conservation.
Contact Kylie Sorenson: Kylie.Sorenson@gmail.com